Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Friday that he would give $33 million in scholarship money to undocumented students who are in the US under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the policy at the center of a roiling immigration battle between the Trump administration and Democrats.
Bezos has been at the center of a long-simmering feud with Trump, who regularly tweets about the tech mogul and Amazon, as well as the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.
The donation comes just a day after President Donald Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration deal — one that would have preserved DACA, allowing hundreds of thousands of “DREAMers” brought illegally to the United States as children to remain in the country safely. At the meeting to discuss the policy Thursday, Trump’s vulgar remarks about the “shithole” countries from which immigrants come to the United States drew charges of racism from Democrats.
The $33 million would pay some tuition and other expenses for 1,000 DACA students through a scholarship nonprofit, TheDream.US. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal financial aid, including grants for low-income students, and in some states they are also forced to pay out-of-state tuition at public colleges.
Bezos’s decision draws attention in part because, unlike other tech moguls, he has mostly stayed out of the philanthropic sphere. The money for undocumented students is his first major public donation. In June of 2017, he solicited ideas on Twitter for how he could use his more than $100 billion fortune.
In tweets, Trump has accused Amazon of bilking the post office, “not paying Internet taxes,” and “hurting tax paying retailers,” and has repeatedly called the Post “fake news.” After Trump accused Bezos of buying the Washington Post “for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no profit company,” Bezos responded by offering to send Trump into space.
In a statement Friday, Bezos invoked his own family’s immigrant history. “My dad came to the US when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” he said, referring to the exodus of Cuban minors in the 1960s. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination — and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware — my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways.”
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. She covers the intersection of business and education.
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